Depending on the breed the best time for a puppy to leave it’s mother and come home with you is between seven and ten weeks. No good breeder would release a pup any younger than seven weeks because it would miss out on specific developmental stages which are important to its psychological health.
A pup removed from the litter too young may have psychological issues in later life making it harder to train, socialise and bond with it’s new family. Conversely a pup that is left too long with the litter may also have training or behavioral issues which would have not been the case if it were taken from a litter at the optimum 7 to 10 weeks.
Developmental Stages in Puppies
Neonatal (0 – 2 weeks)
The neonatal (meaning newly born) stage last from birth to about two weeks old. The pup can neither see nor hear very well and is totally dependent on Mum. Pups this young are susceptible to chilling and will not be able to maintain their own body heat until they reach about one month old.
Transitional (2 – 3 weeks)
The pups start to scrabble about on unsteady little legs. Their hearing and seeing has improved and they can respond to smells and tastes. A good breeder will be handling each pup individually, introducing new objects and gently interacting with these tiny pups to prepare them for the socialisation which will follow in the pups critical first year.
Awareness (3 – 4 weeks)
Between the 3rd and 4th week the pups are bearing less and less resemblance to the helpless little ‘guinea pigs’ of only a few weeks before. In this short period you will see an increasing interest and curiosity as the pups begin to explore their world. This is a very important stage where undue stress – such as a premature removal from the litter – can cause a major impact on the pyschological development of the dog and its ability to be socialised and trained in the months to come.
Canine Socialization (5 – 7 weeks)
The pups are learning what it means to be a dog. They are emotionally ready to learn and at the age of seven weeks can be removed from the litter with no detrimental impact. The time they spend with the mother and the litter in these two weeks is teaching them the art of canine communication. Mum and the pups littermates are teaching him many important lessons including, for example, bite inhibition.
Ongoing Puppy Development
Even though you may have brought your puppy home between the optimum 7 to 10 weeks, it is important to realize that the dog still has some major, predictable developmental stages to go through before he hits maturity. The stages vary from breed to breed with larger breeds maturing at a slower pace. No matter the breed though, your new little puppy has a lot to learn and it is your responsibility to teach him.
For all the cuteness and sweet puppy breath, the little newcomer can quickly morph onto a peeing, pooping, nipping, digging, barking holy terror unless you spend some time training and teaching th little guy how to be a good canine citizen.
A big part of puppy rep involves understanding what to expect from your four-legged fur baby. Positive puppy training works wonders and any of the books below would set you off on the right foot (..paw).